5easy_poster  1970 – Bob Rafelson                                                                             

“He Rode The Fast Lane On The Road To Nowhere.”  


Bobby Dupea, a drop-out from the upper-class, struggles to find meaning in a rootless, blue collar existence in America’s West. When he is drawn back home to his family’s estate to attempt a reconciliation with his dying father, his inner conflict deepens.                                                                              .

cam_03 The identity crisis that wracked American society in the late 60s and early 70s was reflected in a dramatic shift in American film. There was now a strong reaction against some of the earlier traditions of American storytelling in film, often typified by the John Wayne western, where existential questions could be resolved through the direct action of a morally self-assured protagonist.                                                                           Many contemporary film makers now shifted their focus inwards towards an greater expression of the inner world of their characters in an attempt to reconcile many of the uncertain and often contradictory elements they encountered in this new moral landscape of American society. And when this increased emphasis on the psychological components of the individual and how that might serve as a reflection of society at large, were blended with a new freedom of expression through the increasing influence of the French “New Wave” –  a new high point in American film was the result. Of the many of masterpieces produced during this rebirth, few stand out like Bob Rafelson‘s Five Easy Pieces.                                                                                                                                                              Although it is true to the spirit of the times, and there are no easy answers to moral questions in Five Easy Pieces, that doesn’t mean that it is an overly sombre affair. Here is a work of art that delights in many dramatic shades – from the many instances of anarchic black humour through to the most beautifully poised, heart felt moments of drama.                                                                                                                                Jack Nicholson, who had garnered deserved attention the year before in Easy Rider, was confirmed as a genuine powerhouse star in Five Easy Pieces, and his performance of the charismatic but restless, alienated and self-obsessed Bobby Dupea, still ranks as one of his best of his stellar career. And Karen Black, as Bobby’s uneducated and downtrodden girlfriend Rayette, gives a nuanced portrayal of such naked vulnerability that the likes of which have rarely been seen before or since. Above all else, Rafelson and co-writer Adrien Joyce refuse to degenerate into gross sentimentality or sermonising, but lightly yet effectively touch on themes of morality and mortality, family and masculinity, identity and existence.                                                                                                       Five Easy Pieces is a film of stark, superbly judged and beautifully sustained contrasts. It contains some of the most memorable scenes in all cinema, and an ending that is such a master touch that it will echo long afterwards in your thoughts.                                                















  conversationPoster 1974 – Francis Ford Coppola                                                                                                

“We’ll be listening to you.”  


Harry Caul,  a lonely and secretive surveillance expert who is haunted by his past, has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will soon be murdered.

cam_03     The Conversation is a tour de force in its blending of a powerful character drama with a slow burning conspiracy thriller. As vibrant and pertinent today as when it was made – this luminous masterpiece is one the most significant American films of the 1970’s.

The Conversation captures the zeitgeist of a time when American society was grappling with the horrors of the Vietnam War and the American Dream-souring revelations of the Watergate scandal. Here is a deeply ambiguous world where ethics are build on shifting sands and behind every ideal might lie a infesting wound. The film draws heavily on this atmosphere of high anxiety to construct a mesmerising tale with an edgy yet masterfully simplistic execution.                                                                                   The Conversation focuses on the moral issues arising from the emergence of the surveillance state with its all pervasive voyeurism and annihilation of privacy, and its subsequent questions of perception versus reality. The film clearly suggests that moral disintegration, on both a personal and social level, begins with the abnegation of responsibility. So when Harry Caul, dismissively says at one point in the film, “I don’t know about human nature”, he seems to sum up the moral disorder of an entire society as well as his own.                                                                                                          Considered to be his most personal work, Coppola cites Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blowup as a major influence and this seems reflected in the film’s deliberate pacing. A subtle ambiance develops, perhaps more European than American in style, in which there is ample space to reflect on this psychologically acute, visually striking modernist work.                                                                                                                         Francis Ford Coppola‘s writing and direction is stylish and incisive, and never lets the levels of tension subside or the complicated plot get muddled. Walter Murch‘s editing and inspired sound collage – including taped conversations, stifled voices, background and other mechanically-generated noises, are absolute outstanding features of the film. David Shire‘s reoccurring piano inhabits the film with a haunting atmosphere and the cinematography by Bill Butler is marvelously mechanical like a piece of surveillance equipment. The acting too is superbly crafted – Gene Hackman, at the height of his powers, is assisted by brilliant contributions from John Cazale and Allen Garfield and others.

Engrossing from the very first memorable frame to the last –The Conversation is multi-layered, intelligent and…haunting.                                             















sucess_poster 1957 – Alexander Mackendrick                                                                                                

“You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”  


New York Broadway, late 1950s:                                                                                              An utterly ruthless newspaper columnist coerces a unscrupulous press agent to destroy his kid sister’s relationship with a musician.

cam_03   Broadway is a jungle.                                                                                       There is only the conquerors and the conquered – the powerful strut amongst the glamour and the neon, and the weak are mercilessly exploited and occasionally devoured… to a tantalizing Jazz soundtrack. That Sweet Smell Of Success is as a searing tale of power and human corruption as was ever put to film, is perhaps all the more surprising when considered where it is set.                                                                                                  Burt Lancaster is excellent as the towering embodiment of self-serving malevolence, J.J. Hunsecker, the all powerful newspaper columnist trying to keep control his sister’s life. Ruthlessly Intelligent and armed with a lacerating tongue, he dispenses his justice in a brutal fashion – careers, even lives, hang on his every whim.Tony Curtis contributes a wonderfully oily performance as the venal, double-talking sycophantic press agent who is willing to go to any extremes to climb up the greasy pole of success. The sheer effrontery of some of  the human behaviour on display makes Sweet Smell Of Success such a feast to enjoy.                                                                                                               Some of the best black and white cinematography of an urban space ever by James Wong Howe , the great jazzy score by Elmer Bernstein, and expressive direction by Alexander Mackendrick are only topped off by the bravura whiplash dialogue of Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets.

“You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.”












americanbeauty_poster2 1999  – Sam Mendes                                                                                               

“… look closer” 


Lester Burnham is a depressed and alienated suburban father in a mid-life crisis. An infatuation for his daughter’s attractive friend becomes the catalyst for a search for meaning in his life.

cam_03  Sam Mendes‘ brilliant debut feature presents itself initially as a bitter sweet portrait of the  ‘American Dream’. It manages to effortlessly traverse both comedy and tragedy to shine a graceful light on the disillusionment, anxiety and alienation of modern life. Its true genius though, lies in subtly moving beyond the surface to illuminate core elements of the human condition itself.                                                                                   On one level American Beauty is a pitch perfect satire of modern American life – the crushing conformity of suburbia with its worship of possessions, the triumph of image over substance, the power of convention to control our ideals, the terrifying spectre of bigotry parading as morality, and above all, the willful, frantic urge of individuals to construct an insubstantial facade for themselves to substitute for an authentic expression of life… all in all, the self-incarceration of the human spirit.                                                                           Its true, American Beauty tells a caustic tale, but never without genuine humour and charm, and it never forgets it’s obligation to entertain.The performances of the entire cast, especially Kevin Spacey, are delivered with integrity and poise, the beautiful cinematography by Conrad L. Hall, the poetic rhythms of Thomas Newman‘s score and, perhaps above all, the masterful script by Alan Ball –  all seamlessly combine to make an entirely enchanting cinematic experience.                                                                           And yet, even for all that there is still something in American Beauty that draws us deeper…  a profound and abiding sympathy for the human spirit. At its core there is a gentle reminder that perhaps the ultimate “beauty” resides in the evanescence of all things – especially ourselves. 

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”











seconds-poster  1966  – John Frankenheimer                                                                                                

“What Are Seconds?”



Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. Approached by a secret organization, known simply as the “Company”, he agrees to a procedure that will give him a second chance in life.                                       But Arthur finds “rebirth” comes with it’s own price.

cam_03 Seconds is a compellingly paranoid interpretation on the legend of Faust.             This dystopian sci-fi/psychedelic noir is easily one of the darkest, loneliest films ever funded by a Hollywood studio.                                                                                                 It is the third entry in John Frankenheimer’s unofficial “paranoia trilogy” (the other two titles being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May), and although initially booed at the Cannes Film Festival years ago, this distorted gem has gone on to take it’s rightful place as a classic piece of cinema.                                                             Seconds lies squarely at the intersection of post-McCarthyist paranoia, revisited themes of ‘60s European art cinema and The Twilight Zone. At the same time it largely predicted the crises of masculinity and nightmarish interpretations of the counterculture yet to come in Hollywood cinema.                                                                                                   Seconds, like few other films, questions our fundamental values – it points a chilling finger in the direction of own superficiality, and dissolves our notions of the sanctity of identity with a disquieting ease.                                                                                                              Frankenheimer’s direction of this film, both in style and intent, puts him squarely in the same company as Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles. Seconds also features a brilliantly innovative opening sequence by Saul Bass, dazzling cinematography of the legendary James Wong Howe, disorientating ambient orchestrations by Jerry Goldsmith and a performance by Rock Hudson which is often regarded as his greatest.

Seconds will crawl under your skin and stay with you long after the film’s end.


A still from Joel Frankenheimer's 1966 film "Seconds."








sweetback_poster01 1971  – Melvin Van Pebbles                                                                                                 

“You bled my momma – you bled my poppa – but you won’t bleed me “



Sweetback, a performer in a sex show, is captured by the police, violently interrogated and framed for murder. After he defends a Black Panther from a brutal assault, he breaks out he flees through decrepit South Central Los Angeles. Using his formidable abilities, he evades the manhunt by any means necessary.

cam_03 One of the most polarising American films ever made!                                              Written, produced, scored, edited, directed by, and starring Melvin Van PeeblesSweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song is raw, low budget and totally independent – and amongst the first, and most important examples of African American cinema.                                  Born out of the climate surrounding the civil rights struggle, it is seen as a potent reaction to the general depiction at the time by Hollywood of African Americans as, stereotyped, marginalized and disempowered.                                                        Lauded as a militant yet refreshing cinematic breakthrough for black aesthesis in film (it was mandatory viewing for the Black Panther Party), or condemned as crass and lurid merchandising of social injustice, it somehow comes across as a audacious mix of both commercial and ideological ingredients.                                                                                   Totally uncompromising and ocassionaly grindingly repetitive, it nevertheless accumulates a kind of hallucinatory groove, with unexpected shafts of bizarre humour and vigorous, experimental new wave direction (psychedelic negative images, split screen etc.). Trailblazing and certainly one of a kind, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, led to the creation of the  blaxploitation genre.

Rated X by an all white jury!










In_cold_blood_02 1967 – Richard Brooks

“I’d like to apologize, but… who to?”



Two drifters plan to rob but end up murdering a family in rural Kansas in 1959.

cam_03 In Cold Blood still remains the benchmark by which all true-crime films are matched.There are no heroics or wild police chases, just a realistic look at the crime, the capture, and the executions which inspired the novel by Truman CapoteIn Cold Blood is the stuff of nightmares, but this is no dream – these events really happened in 1959.                                                                                                                                   The fact that much of the filming took place in the actual locations where the crime took place, even inside the very house where the multiple homicides occurred, add additional depth. The austerity of blue collar life in the Mid West of the 1950’s is splendidly evoked as the two criminals move through a rolling montage of cheap hotels and diners, bus stations and interstates.                                                                                                             Richard Brooks’ restrained direction, Conrad Hall’s exquisite black and white cinematography, Peter Zinner’s stark yet poetic editing and Quincy Jones’s atmospheric jazz score produce a truly dark and compelling atmosphere. Stella performances from the two leads, Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, complete a profound character study of the killers.                                                                                                                                   Curiously, Robert Blake, the actor playing the condemned killer Perry, was the child actor who played the street urchin who accosts Humphrey Bogart in the beginning of The Treasure of Sierra Madre – that film is referenced several times in In Cold Blood. Furthermore In 2004, a much darker coincidence occurred when Robert Blake was ordered to stand trial for the real life murder of his wife.



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